Climbing the Economic Factor - Adjustment of Youth

In our contemporary open-class society, which permits shifting from one socioeconomic level to another, occupation tends not only to determine social status but also informal types of association. Interest groups and informal association groups in urban society are for the most part made up of those engaged in similar occupations rather than of those who live near by, as is true in rural societies. For this reason, people who differ rather decidedly in background are likely to be thrown together in informal social participation.Youth, as they climb upward through our open-class society, find themselves thrown from one sociooccupational group to another. There is, as a consequence, the necessity of adjustment to the standards, codes, and social ideologies of the new social groups. The farm youth, for example, who enters the professions will find his life patterns and group associations vastly different from what they would have been had he stayed in the parental occupation. George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion described some of the difficulties of this process of social climbing strikingly. Higgins, professor of phonetics, takes Eliza Doolittle, a flower girl, from the streets and decides to reeducate her in speech habits, dress, and manners so that she can pass for a refined lady. After six months of experimental coaching, the great test came when she appeared as a guest at a garden party. She is "a triumph of art and the dressmaker," but gives herself away in every sentence she utters and, in spite of all her coaching, did not naturally come by all of the niceties that were required by the level of society which she was supposed to represent.The setting of this play was in English society, where lines between the classes are more clearly drawn than in America, but the play does illustrate the difficulties of acquiring new behavior patterns as young people climb the ladder from one occupational class to another.

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